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Q and A
Would you describe the writing process as 'painful'?
I prefer "difficult" but maybe I'm splitting hairs. I find a lot of the writing process to be positive. There are those great moments when bright, intriguing things pop out of your brain--images, ideas, scraps of dialogue, memories, little structures, mirrors of what you wrote before--all that. My guess is, if we only ever wrote for ourselves, it wouldn't be painful or difficult. The hard parts happen when we wrestle with all the problems of language as communication and all the complexities of our own desires to be read, seen, heard, loved, known, understood deeply, and never forgotten. Ha! Good fucking luck. But even though such wishes are impossible, it doesn't mean most writers aren't driven by them. Or most people, for that matter.
Hi Stacey, If you can put questions in your answers, then I can put replies in my questions. My favorite Douglas Coupland novels are Miss Wyoming and Girlfriend In A Coma. I liked Life After God a lot, though it wasn't a novel per se. There is a part in Miss Wyoming where he humanizes a really wretched and miserable character. A masterstroke of writing. It centers around the free red plastic spoon you get with a sundae at Dairy Queen. Currently I am reading The Gum Thief. I am really enjoying it. Did you know that Mr. Coupland also collects art? To conform to the proper format of this site, I'll end with a question: how's the pirate novel coming along?
Hi Tom. Spoons, hmmm. The pirate novel is killing me, but thanks for asking.
Happy Birthday! My question is this: do you like the work of Douglas Coupland? I have just started reading some of his later works and I enjoy them a good bit.
Thanks Tom. I like Douglas Coupland but I haven't read him for a long time. (I admire that he makes furniture as well as books. It's nice furniture, and writers need a break from words.) I liked Generation X when it came out--as I recall it had sidebars, neat typography, a lot of creative energy. Then I read a book with the word "hair" in the title. I think maybe, at least in my mind, Coupland suffers from the same problem as Jay Mcinerney--his first book was so good that it made it harder for the subsequent ones (if you haven't read Bright Lights, Big City for a while, I think you'd be surprised by how good it is). I'm not supposed to put questions in my answers, but if I did I might ask which Couplands you liked.
Additional question: What are you doing for your big day, Birthday Girl?
For my birthday, I went to Phoenix to see my friends and family and have them feed me cake. My parents gave me a wonderful present a few weeks ago (a necklace that belonged to my grandmother), but on this trip my mother also gave me a scarf she'd given me a few years ago (when I refused it); I'm planning to save it and give it back to her for her next birthday. She also gave me half a pedicure machine with the promise that the second half (now lost) would turn up soon. I didn't tell her this, but I actually found the second half last summer when she sent me into her closet to find a few things for her (she was out of town). It looks like a sex toy-dildo device and this disturbed me for weeks. But it's not my mother's sex toy! It's a pedicure wand. That, in itself, was a good present.
Hey, Stacey. Here are some urgent questions:
Are you friends with singer/songwriter Aimee Mann? Because I bet you 2 would get along famously. (If you're not friends, please explain why not.)
If you had to be in a literary feud with a writer of a past era, who would you choose? (I bet you could have socked it to Ayn Rand.) Also, if you're brave enough to answer this, what current-day writer would you choose to get into a literary feud with? (Roiphe seems like the obvious choice, but Rick Moody would be farrrrrrrr more interesting.)
If I ever have to write a paper about you, or answer some "Discussion Questions" printed alongside one of your stories in some anthology, can I just ask you very general questions about that particular story, and then use your responses in lieu of providing my own analysis? It would save me some time, so you'd totally be doing me a solid. (Think it over.)
What is the most prurient and/or low-minded thing you're into right now? For instance: Are you watching "Jersey Shore"? Eating Pizza Bagel-Bites by the box? Spending obscene amounts of money buying airbrushed sweatshirts off of HSN? Give us the dirt, Stacey!
Are there times when it's appropriate to be passive-aggressive?
Who is you favorite Muppet, and why? (If you simply cannot name only one, then a small list would be acceptable, and, in my opinion, preferable.)
Okay, Stacey! You've got your work cut out for you. Get crackin'!
Your current admirer and future literary rival,
Okay, let's take these one by one:
I don't know Aimee Mann. I do like Aimee Mann's music though. I don't know her because she's a beautiful rock star who lives in Los Angeles while I am a mousy little writer holed up in Tucson. Also, I don't know most people. However, I do know Lisa Loeb.
If I had to feud with a writer from the past, I'd choose Gertrude Stein. I don't want to attack her, I just think it would be great to deal with her in any way. I bet she'd feud like a rapper--we'd be like Lil' Kim and Nicki Minaj. For a current-day writer, I'll take Jonathan Franzen. (I can't fight with Roiphe; I'm crazy about Roiphe). Though it's true that I'm a big fan of the Frazen, I think that feuding with him would be good for my career. In the course of our skirmish, I'd try do that confusing, infuriating thing that makes everyone feel crazy, where I criticize him for things that I deserve to be criticized for myself. He writes too slowly! His characters are not nice! I sense inside jokes in his work--what's that about? Some of that stuff that happens is not realistic! Has he had botox? Gastric by-pass? He should get some sun!
I won't provide answers for your study guide. Except if you give me presents, I might.
I don't really like any of the Muppets. Their eyes don't move, and I've always found that disturbing. However, as I was watching Muppets in Space last night, I realized I do like the little minor-Muppet crab who speaks with a French accent. I wish Muppets in Space could count for the undignified thing I'm into lately, but I only watched it for ten minutes to see F. Murray Abraham. I'm a big F. Murray fan, and while I don't know him, I did once see him walking down the street in New York City. In fact, I only started watching it in the first place because I'd just finished watching a great episode of Nature that he narrates, and I wanted keep up my F. Murray Abraham roll. (It was the incredible dog episode with all the animated dog skeletons and the sled dog puppies born on the ice and the wonderful Belyaev foxes, as well as the sad-faced shepherd who says of his border collies, "I love them deeply." I love them deeply too! I don't even know them and I love them. In fact, if this writing thing doesn't work out--and it seems like it's not going to, especially given how long it's taking me to answer this question--then I'm going to get some border collies and spend the rest of my life teaching them language, or at least the names of hundreds of toys, everyday, for hours and hours. Then we'll go outside and go running, running, running).
I can't believe I'm still doing this. Ha ha, very funny. Okay: the most prurient/low-minded thing I'm doing (besides looking at porn) would probably have to be catalog shopping, for bras, a lot, I don't know why. Something's come over me. Also, the last two books I read were Why Me? The Sammy Davis Jr. Story (it's excellent) and Wunnerful, Wunnerful: The Autobiography of Lawrence Welk (which is not quite as good)--both ghost-written, out-of-print pap.
Is it ever appropriate to be passive-agressive? Wow. What a great question. If my life is any indication itís always appropriate to be passive-aggressive, but thatís not my real answer. My real answer is: yes. First of all, itís entirely appropriate, even worthwhile, to be passive-aggressive with your psychotherapist. Otherwise, howís he going to help you see what an asshole you are? Acting like a dick is also a good test to see if the therapist is on his toes, but since true passive-aggressive behavior is unconscious (otherwise, itís just aggression), you might have to wait for it to kinda just leak out. (Iíve been late four times in a row? No I havenít! Whatever, I canít control traffic, Iím not God. Nice shirt. I did so pay you! I don't run the post office. Etc.) Itís also customary to be sullen, late, forgetful, thieving, obstinate, dishonest, and catty throughout oneís adolescence, and though no one loves this, I would say itís become a tradition and is therefore socially acceptable.
In all other cases, the answer is no. Try to stop yourself, good luck, but still: no. Instead, I recommend channeling your energy into indirect aggressionóbeing sneaky. Slash her tires! Pee on the bed (for dogs)! Steal one shoe! Text a naked picture! Use the return envelope to mail a brick! Leak the porn video! Burn your leader in effigy! This takes some initiative, and therefore requires that you acknowledge the evil within, but weíre all horrible people anyway, so what the fuck? Oh sure, it's not as admirable as being direct, but it's not always smart to be direct (little woman, big man). At least being sneaky-aggressive carries its own little nugget of glee.
I read "the caveman in the hedges" and i now have to answer some questions on it. One of them, is how this story shows satire. The other question im stuck on is how this story is how magic realism applies to this story. Any help?
Say it ain't so! You don't like music? Whoa, that's tough. Well, I'll have to cancel my plans to buy a copy of Twin Study. Furthermore, I've thrown away my copy of My Date With Satan. Ok, not really. But I am sort of shocked that such a creative person doesn't like music. Why not?
Hi Tom. I've answered this before-maybe even several times. Why don't you page back and see if you're satisfied with my previous answer?
How to be good had kind of a disappointing end. I think I get what he was trying to do, sort of a life goes on thing, but i just didn't work. I just finished A Long Way Down and enjoyed it quite a bit. High Fidelity remains my favorite of Mr. Hornby's work. Even if it was made into a horrible movie. Since this is supposed to be a Q & A, here goes a question. What kind of music do you listen to? My guess is Sea Shanties sung by Somali pirates.
Ah ha! You're not the first person to ask, and the answer remains that I hardly listen to anything. I know it doesn't seem quite human but I'm not really into music. Occasionally I still love a song, or think something suddenly sounds great, but overall I'm disappointed by music and sound in general. Today, if I were forced to sit in a chair and listen to music for a few hours, I would choose ELO, The Feelies, and Blossom Dearie.
Hi Stacey. Are you familiar with the work of Nick Hornby? If so, what is your favorite book or story by him? How is the pirate novel coming along?
Hi Tom. Weird you should ask, because the night before you did, I literally was lying in bed thinking how I'd only read one book by Nick Hornby (How To Be Good), and that even though there was a lot about that was cool, in the end it was the wrong one for me to start with (I didn't like it that much). I think I should try High Fidelity next. I did enjoy The Polysyllabic Spree, but it's not really a book book.
The pirate novel is great! Everyone now has only one eye.
Hi Stacey. Sorry to be a bummer and all, but is the world going to hell in a hand basket? Or am I just more aware of these hard times now that I'm a middle-aged father? I mean, is any of the crap that's happening now (Libya, Wisconsin, Japan) any worse than the stuff that was troubling to our parents (Russia, Mississippi, Cuba)?
It's you. Yes, the world is going to hell in a hand basket, but it's always doing that. Young people have a knack for blowing off the danger of the world--they're terrified, sure, but it's more of a personal terror based on uncertainty about their own lives. (Will I have enough money to live? Will I be drafted? What will I be when I grow up? What does life mean? Will I ever get laid again? Will I ever have my own family? Am I safe in my apartment?). Once you get mostly past that stuff, you start to feel the danger of the world and a sense of yourself as part of it. Like, I have to go to school every night in my dreams. It used to be that I had to go to an unfindable Spanish/Math test lesson class, but in recent years I have to go to an unfindable History class test lecture thing. History--get it? I don't really. But I kind of do.
If it's any comfort, I think Russia, Mississippi, Cuba were all way worse than Libya, Wisconsin, Japan. Chernobyl was worse than Japan as a nuclear accident (at least they shut down the reactors in Japan, which is more than they did in Chernobyl), but it was cloaked in Soviet silence so no one knew what was going on until later. As far as I know, there were no pictures. One thing that makes the hellish stuff so vivid now is that we get to see it. Here's a thought--maybe I'm totally psycho--but there's something exciting about being able to see it. There's something amazing about having such access to history, to images and information. Maybe it's an exciting time to be alive. And it's way better than the fourteenth century! At least we don't have to worry about the Black Death.